Kickboxer (1989 film)

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Kickboxer poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
  • Mark DiSalle
  • David Worth
Produced by Mark DiSalle
Screenplay by Glenn A. Bruce
Story by
Music by Paul Hertzog
Cinematography Jon Kranhouse
Edited by Wayne Wahrman
Distributed by The Cannon Group
Release dates
  • September 8, 1989 (1989-09-08)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.7 million[2]
Box office $14,697,005[3]

Kickboxer is a 1989 American martial arts film produced and directed by Mark DiSalle, and also co-directed by David Worth, and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and former world kickboxing champion Dennis Alexio. The film was released in the United States on September 8, 1989. The film is considered to be a cult classic and one of the definitive works in Van Damme's movie career as a martial artist. It was so successful that it spawned several sequels.


Kurt and Eric Sloane are two kickboxing brothers. Eric is currently the world champion in the United States and has started using Kurt as his cornerman. After making a successful defence of his world title in the U.S. Eric is challenged by journalists as to what his next move will be as he's now beaten all of his main competitors in America. Eric agrees to travel to Thailand where Kickboxing was invented to further prove his legacy. Eric and Kurt travel to Bangkok where they are matched against Tong Po, Thailand's undefeated top fighter. After taking in some of Bangkok's tourist spots the brothers travel to the arena for the big fight. Eric is supremely confident but Kurt has some apprehension about the different style of fighting in Thailand, shortly before the bout Kurt sees Tong Po striking a concrete pillar with his leg and in fear begs his brother not to go forward with the fight, Eric dismisses any concerns. The first round of the fight is brutal for Eric who is manhandled and roughhoused by Tong Po's tactics and strength and before the round is over, Eric is floored twice. At the break between rounds, Kurt begs Eric to forfeit the fight as he is outmatched and incapable of handling such a rough style. Eric refuses to give up and proceeds to be beaten badly in the second round. When he is floored Kurt throws the towel, but Tong Po kicks the towel out of the ring and continues his assault. He viciously strikes Eric in the back with his elbow, without the referee interfering, immobilising him. Tong Po then proceeds to rip apart Eric's world championship which he has just won. Kurt retrieves the broken belt and leaves the ring with his brother on a stretcher, the fight officials instead of taking them to a hospital simply dump them on the street and lock them out of the arena. Winston Taylor, a retired US Army special forces member agrees to help the pair and drives them in his van to the hospital. Kurt waits anxiously for news of his brother's condition and is eventually told by the doctors after several hours of surgery that Eric is lucky to be alive and, as a result of the assault from Tong Po after the match had ended, is now paralyzed from the waist down. Kurt is told that Eric will never be able to fight, or even walk again.

Furious, Kurt vows to avenge his brother but is warned by Taylor that the only way to fight Tong Po is in the ring, as going after him outside the ring will result in reprisals against Americans by Thailand citizens because Tong Po is a national hero. Though reluctant at first, Taylor eventually tells him about Xian Chow, a locally famous trainer living in a remote area of Thailand. Upon locating Xian, Kurt is able to convince him to train him in the art of Muay Thai ("Thai boxing"). Xian trains Kurt using many primitive methods and focusing on speed, agility, and the ability to protect himself through balance and timely breathing. While training, Kurt attempts to foil the operations of a group of Thai mobsters led by Freddy Li, who continuously steal money from the store of Xian's niece, Mylee and threaten her. After Kurt makes short work of the thugs in a bar fight with Freddy Li looking on, Xian is able to convince Freddy Li to arrange a match between Kurt and Tong Po. It is determined that they will fight in the "ancient way", in which both fighters wrap their hands in hemp rope, which is then coated in resin and dipped in broken glass to make them deadly weapons.

Freddy Li arranges to have the fight fixed, and borrows $1 million from the crime syndicate's boss to bet on Tong Po. In the days leading up to the match, Mylee is beaten and raped by Tong Po, and Eric is kidnapped by Freddy Li's henchmen to blackmail Kurt into losing the fight. To save his brother's life, Kurt is instructed by Freddy Li to go the distance with Tong Po before losing the match. He endures a torturous beating, but Xian and Taylor locate and rescue Eric before the fight concludes. With his brother free from danger, Kurt finds a second wind and defeats Tong Po in a vicious fashion. For good measure, he also kicks Freddy Li.


  • Jean-Claude Van Damme as Kurt Sloane
  • Dennis Alexio as Eric Sloane
  • Dennis Chan as Xian Chow
  • Michel Qissi as Tong Po
  • Ka Ting Lee as Freddy Li
  • Rochelle Ashana as Mylee
  • Haskell Anderson as Winston Taylor
  • Richard Foo as Tao Lin
  • Ricky Liu as Big Thai man
  • Africa Chu as Messenger
  • Joann Wong as Tao Liu's wife
  • Louel Pio Roda as Lexl's husband
  • Mathew Cheung as Surgeon


As a backdrop for some of the training scenes, Kurt Sloane (Van Damme) trains near the temples in Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Ratchaburana, part of the ruins of Ayutthaya city in Thailand. Principal photography lasted 56 days on location in Bangkok, Thailand, between June 28 and August 23, 1988.


A soundtrack containing songs from the movie was released featuring songs from soundtrack specialist Stan Bush. The score for the film was composed by Paul Hertzog. The full score was remastered and released in 2006 by Perseverance Records in limited quantity.

The 2006 official score release does not include a previously released version of the score track titled "Buddha's Eagle" which was released on the Best of Van Damme Volume 2 Compilation CD.

On July 2, 2014, an expanded version of the 2006 album was released by Perseverance Records. This album contained the remastered original 22 tracks plus 9 vocal performances that previously had only been available in Germany.[citation needed]

Box office and reception[edit]

Kickboxer is grossed $14,697,005 in the United States.[3] Cannon deliberately released it on the traditionally slow weekend after Labor Day when no studio releases, and thus limited competition; it opened on 973 screens and grossed $4.1 million, making it the third most popular film in the country.[4] A few years later its gross was estimated at $50 million.[5]

Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times called the film "egregiously dull" and a contender for one of "the dumbest action pictures of the year", citing its "jarring shifts in tone, insurmountable plot implausibilities, rampant racial stereotyping, superfluous nudity and inhuman amounts of comically exaggerated violence". Willman also questioned the manner in which characters seem to recover from serious injuries and major trauma.[6]

Chris Hicks of the Deseret News criticized the film as a ripoff of The Karate Kid, with added elements from other films such as Rocky and Rambo. In addition to stating that the ending was predictable, Hicks also dismissed Van Damme as "little more than a low-budget Arnold Schwarzenegger Wannabee" whose attempts at acting were in vain.[7]

There is currently no consensus on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, though it has a 65% "fresh score" generated by 50,913 users.[8]

Home media[edit]

On June 8, 1999, DVD was released by HBO Home Video at the United States in Region 1. On 6 January 2003, DVD was released by Prism Leisure Corporation at the United Kingdom in Region 2.


The film spawned several sequels. Despite Van Damme not returning, the film series between parts two and four continues the ongoing battles between the Sloan family - expanded to include third brother David Sloan, essayed by Sasha Mitchell - and Tong Po. The fifth entry is related in name only.


Main article: Kickboxer: Vengeance

The film, intended to be a reboot of the original film series, will be a semi-remake as many of the characters are the same and the premise is similar. The film has finished production and is currently pending release.[9][10]


  1. ^ "KICKBOXER (18)". Entertainment Film Distributors. British Board of Film Classification. August 3, 1989. Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ "August 27, 1989 - Punch lineage | Chicago Tribune Archive". 1989-08-27. Retrieved 2016-07-23. 
  3. ^ a b "Kickboxer (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 24, 2013. 
  4. ^ DANIEL CERONE (1997-01-24). "Independent Film Makers, Marketers Confront Box-Office Crisis - latimes". Retrieved 2016-07-23. 
  5. ^ Sherrill, Martha (August 11, 1991). "The muscles from brussels". Washington Post. 
  6. ^ Willman, Chris (1989-09-11). "'Kickboxer' Takes a Giant Step Backwards". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ Hicks, Chris (October 5, 1989). "Film review: Kickboxer". Deseret News. 
  8. ^ "Kickboxer". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-01-08. 
  9. ^ "Jean-Claude Van Damme Returning to 'Kickboxer' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. December 1, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  10. ^ Wood, Matt (2016-07-16). "The Kickboxer: Vengeance Trailer Is Brutal And Thrilling, Watch It Now". Retrieved 2016-07-23. 

External links[edit]